RANGERS roared back to the top of the SPL after a stunning victory over their Old Firm rivals to give Alex McLeish the perfect present for his first birthday as boss.

In another incredible contest between Scotland’s top two, Rangers came from behind, stormed into a two-goal lead and then had to hang on to claim the victory they desperately wanted to open up a two-point lead at the half-way stage of the campaign.

It was McLeish’s first league win over Celtic and the first home win for the Light Blues in this fixture for over two years and how the fans lapped it up.

In the end it was Michael Mols who proved to be the match-winner in what was another epic and the only thing Rangers have to do now is stay at the top!

There were many who said the drama of October’s 3-3 draw would not be surpassed but not for the first time in Old Firm history logic left via the window.

Rangers had scarcely warmed up when they found themselves one down, they lost Maurice Ross after 20 minutes through injury but by half-time they were basking in the glory of a 3-1 lead.

Ibrox was stunned when Cetic took the lead in just 19 seconds and it has to be said the Rangers defending left a lot to be desired.

Ulrik Laursen fired a long ball towards the edge of the penalty area and there did not seem much danger, but John Hartson was allowed to collect it unimpeded.

The Welshman burst into the box and drove it low across the face. Again, the Rangers defence seemed static as Chris Sutton moved in to make contact and despite the best efforts of Ross on the line the ball squeezed in at the right post.

Alex McLeish could not believe his eyes and must have wondered just what this day would bring.

He need not have worried. Just as they did in the Cup Final, his players showed resilience, resolve and remarkable spirit as they came roaring back in spectacular fashion.

The game was level after 10 minutes and it was moment to savour for Craig Moore who grabbed his first Old Firm goal in fabulous style.

Michael Mols won a corner on the left when his shot came off Balde. Fernando Ricksen swept the ball over an Moore rose majestically to power a header into the net.

In fairness, Rangers were incredibly fortunate not to fall behind again in 17 minutes when Neil McCann senselessly put his team in trouble,

Instead of launching the ball out of defence, McCann only succeeded in giving it away to Stilian Petrov who immediately drove the ball back into the Rangers box.

Hartson stuck out his left boot and the ball diverted onto the left hand post. The crowd held its breath as the ball ran just in front of the line and then wide of the other post. It was an amazing let off.

Games can turn on such a moment and Rangers must have sensed their good fortune and in fairness to McCann he produced a superb piece of play to force Rangers ahead.

The Scotland winger burst down the left hand side in 34 minute showing too much skill and pace for Balde. He took the ball to the goal line and whipped over a cross which was just too tempting for Ronald de Boer.

The Dutchman timed his run to perfection as he allowed the ball to come across his body and slammed a right foot volley high into the net to send the Rangers fans into raptures.

That said only the athleticism of Stefan Klos stopped Celtic from drawing level just two minutes later – such was the incredible nature of the contest.

Ricksen gave away a freekick just outside the box the right side, Steve Guppy whipped over the free kick and Hartson powered in a header but Klos clawed it over the bar.

Another turning point perhaps, and Rangers seized the initiative by surging into a 3-1 lead in 39 minutes and Ibrox went crazy.

Ricksen was the man responsible for the strike when he took a short free kick from Amoruso and danced past three challenges with a run which took him to the edge of the Celtic box.

Ricksen played the ball into Shota Arveladze, who laid it off for Michael Mols who wasted no time in tucking a right foot shot behind Rab Douglas to claim his first Old Firm goal in two years.

The half time whistle came too early for Rangers as it gave Celtic time to regroup and they came storming back in the second half.

The Light Blues seemed incapable of getting their passing game going as Cetlic pinned them back and there was almost an inevitability that the Parkhead side would score.

The goal came in 60 minutes when Henrik Larsson laid the ball back to Hartson and he drove a low right foot shot into the left corner.

Again Rangers showed great resilience as they weathered the storm and came out fighting again but with such a slender lead it was always a bit nervous for the fans.

Amoruso came desperately close to easing the tension in 66 minutes with a sensational 40-yard strike which beat Douglas but slammed off the right hand post.

Substitute Peter Lovenkrands also had some good opportunities to really nail the game once and for all, but he just could not apply the finishing touch.

It was almost agonising at the end as the fans willed Kenny Clark to blow his final whistle and when he did celebrations broke out all over the ground.

McLeish could hardly wish to commemorate his first year in charge in better fashion,

RANGERS: Klos; Ross (Malcolm 20), Moore, Amoruso, Numan; Ricksen, de Boer, Ferguon; Arveladze (Lovenkrands 64), Mols (Caniggia 83), McCann.

Subs not used: McGregor, Hughes.

Bookings: Ferguson (32), McCann (84)

CELTIC: Douglas; Balde, Valgaeren, Laursen; Agathe, Lennon, Sutton, Petrov, Guppy (Thompson 52); Larsson, Hartson.

Subs not used: Gould, Lambert, Maloney, Crainey.

Bookings: Hartson (19), Balde (26)

Att: 49,874

Ref: Kenny Clark.

Man of the match: Craig Moore

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